Abraham Lincoln received the nickname “Honest Abe” as a teenager, due to his honesty as a store clerk. When Lincoln accidentally overcharged customers, he would close the store to track them down and give them the change he owed them.
Long before he was elected President, Lincoln was known in his Illinois community for his integrity and honesty. Friends and other community members would seek out Lincoln and his judgment regarding fights, discussions and disagreements. Lincoln’s regard among the community helped him win a spot in the Illinois legislature, where his reputation for fairness and honesty allowed him to win four consecutive terms.
Lincoln’s later career as a lawyer was in some ways opposed to his reputation for honesty, as the profession is commonly perceived to require some degree on dishonesty in order for lawyers to be successful. However, Lincoln strove for honesty even in his law practice, and by many accounts he performed poorly in the courtroom when arguing for a side with which he disagreed.
Lincoln also exercised honesty throughout his political career, maintaining an attitude of sincerity and candor with both political allies and opponents. Lincoln prided himself on his ability to win support without resorting to deception or ingratiating himself to supporters. Even Lincoln’s most bitter opponents, such as presidential rival Frederick Douglas, knew where they stood with Lincoln, and respected him for it.